Grand Canyon University and the Cardon family are teaming up to launch a new two-year non-degree program this fall that provides individuals with moderate intellectual disabilities an opportunity to experience life on a Christian college campus. Inspired by Don and Kim Cardon, the L.O.P.E.S. (Learning Opportunities for Participation and Engagement in School) Academy at the Cardon Center will help individuals find their personal purpose through academic, social and job skills development for successful, independent living.

Going to college is a rite of passage for most young adults. It marks a time of transition into adulthood, gaining independence, developing friendships and learning important life skills. However, the opportunity to experience college can be non-existent for many, especially for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and other learning challenges.

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“GCU is the right fit for the L.O.P.E.S. Academy. Our daughter Emma, who has special needs, has the same aspirations as any other young adult and wants to feel part of a college community,” said Don Cardon of Cardon Development Group, who along with his wife Kim are providing the financial support necessary for the creation of the program. “We have great admiration for President Mueller, Mr. Colangelo and the University, as they share a mutual passion for faith-based innovation and are creating a safe learning environment where Emma’s talents won’t be limited.”

Each course in the L.O.P.E.S. Academy program is seven weeks, with participants taking two courses per 15-week semester (fall and spring). Each class meets twice a week for one hour. Specifically designed by GCU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, classes will include guest speakers and workshops that focus on finding personal purpose through academic, social and job skills development for successful, independent living. Participants will also gain the GCU college experience outside the classroom by diving deeper into social activities based on their individual interests and skills, including Chapel events, clubs, sporting events or just grabbing lunch with friends.

“Grand Canyon University is committed to making educational opportunities accessible to everyone,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “The L.O.P.E.S. Academy will be successful because of our community culture on campus that embraces all students. It’s filled with Christ’s presence where students organically accept and support one another. They’re going to bring an element of solutions to the program as it grows in a society that often puts limits on students with IDDs.”

Each L.O.P.E.S. Academy participant will be teamed up with a L.O.P.E.S. Buddy – a GCU student mentor who will share in the participant’s university experience through lunch on campus, club meetings, sporting events, Chapel, CityServe volunteer opportunities, university events and other social activities. L.O.P.E.S. Buddies will commit to the L.O.P.E.S. Academy participant for the two-year program.

“This investment reflects our gratitude in God’s kindness to our family, as well as our specific desire to support and lift up Emma’s personal visions for her life, as well as many others into the future. To us, this is an investment into the gospel, as the University assists both the young and old how to integrate God’s calling into your life in practical ways,” said Don Cardon.